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By Wang Lu

Do you know about the 3R principles?

3R stands for Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. These are the basic principles for waste reduction in Japan. Although the garbage sorting system could seem convoluted and even frustrating to a gaijin (foreigner) at first, considering the remarkable accomplishments Japan has achieved in solving waste problems that seem so intractable for many countries, it really merits attention from the world.

In Japan, garbage is not only sorted carefully into about eight categories, each category of garbage also could only be discarded on designated days. When the waste is sorted improperly or when the wrong category of waste is discarded on the designated day, the bag will be left on the curb, with a warning seal stuck on it. It could be embarrassing for all your neighbors to witness your careless mistake. So better be careful with the garbage!

Lu_recycleWhen the waste is so meticulously sorted, with so many categories under the recyclables (5 categories), most of the waste will be able to be reused in one way or another. For instance, the Container and Packaging Recycling Law, which was enacted in 1997, stipulates that container and packages are recycled by designated recycling business entities through public bidding. Amazingly, even for the combustible waste, after being burned and treated, the remaining glass substance could be reused as road base materials.

However, when you have five or six different bags of garbage, it still gives you a headache when trying to figure out just which part of the cup noodle should go to which color of bag. Therefore, keeping the 3Rs in mind is also important.

Firstly, try to reduce the amount of garbage that you produce by refusing over-wrapping; buy just enough food to eat and try to bring your own bag. Moreover, try to buy refillable articles; make the effort to repair things before discarding them. There are also ingenious ways to recycle waste on your own, why don’t be creative and make your own DIY?

The 3R initiative was proposed at the G8 Summit in June 2004. The ministers agreed about the Kobe 3R Action Plan, which aims at improving resource productivity and reducing waste on a global scale. I hope we will soon see changes in every country!

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